5 Plant-Based Ways to Improve Athletic Performance
The world is changing folks! Plant-based nutrition is no longer on the fringes, but is accepted by mainstream experts and health professionals as the optimal form of nutrition for disease prevention, longevity, and even disease reversal. However, the misconception of the wiry, weak vegan still persists for the uninformed. Not surprisingly, even among the athletic community it’s becoming increasingly clear that going plant-based IMPROVES athletic performance and recovery, as well as preventing heart disease, cancers, strokes, and diabetes that accompany diets based on animal sources.
Even if you haven’t taken the leap to a 100% plant-based diet (like tennis great Venus Williams, NFL linebacker David Carter, or ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek), here are 5 great plant-based ways to improve your athletic recovery and performance.
Doping……with BEETS! Beets, along with other high nitrate containing vegetables (like arugula, spinach, and swiss chard), are unique in that they dilate blood vessels, improve blood flow and boost the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. This translates into increased endurance for your workouts, as well as less muscle fatigue post-workout. (Not to mention it lowers your blood pressure). Here’s an easy workout juice from FoodTherapyMD:
8 ounces beet juice
4 celery stalks
1 cup arugula
1/2 inch ginger root
(if the beets aren’t sweet enough for you, you can throw in a small apple)
Toss in your cold-press juicer and drink before workouts.
2. Kill the Inflammation. Plants contain powerful compounds called “phytonutrients” which act to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Rigorous physical activity produces a big oxidative load in the muscles and tissues. Ginger root is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory plant substances we know. In fact, the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger are on par with that of aspirin (but without the pesky side effect of bleeding ulcers). There are several easy ways to incorporate ginger root into your diet. I love adding the powdered form into smoothies, or adding the root to fresh juice. An even easier way is to drink ginger tea, hot or cold, after your workout.
3. Protein load with PLANTS. Athletes have increased protein requirements, but loading up on chicken breasts and eggs is so 1990s! Plant sources of protein are infinitely better than animal sources. Animal protein produces an inflammatory response and increased oxidative stress in the body, including the blood vessels. This constricts the vessels bringing blood and oxygen to the muscles and organs, and therefore decreases performance. Just as beets INCREASE the nitric oxide effect in the arteries, animal protein DECREASES it. But not to worry. You can get more than enough protein from plants such as hummus, beans, lentils, spinach, wild rice, soy, green peas, and hemp protein.
For more info on what animal products do to the body, click here https://foodtherapymd.com/poultry-health-2/
4. Stop the pain. If you don’t have aches after your workout, you probably weren’t doing it right! But instead of reaching for the over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen, aleve®, or Tylenol®, reach for the chamomile tea, cherries, and turmeric! Camomile tea and turmeric are both very powerful anti-inflammatory and pain relieving compounds. In fact, their components are classified as natural COX-2 inhibitors, like the prescription drugs Celebrex® and Mobic®. Cherries exhibit similar anti-inflammatory properties but through a different mechanism. It’s the concentrated anthocyanins in dark red cherries that are responsible for the benefits. They have even been effective in relieving pain in gout and osteoarthritis. I recommend grabbing a handful of cherries as a recovery snack post-workout, or adding turmeric to a smoothie. Turmeric can also be consumed in a tea, along with camomile. Another easy way is to put 2-3 tea bags in your water bottle, and drink throughout the day.
5. Don’t skimp on the superfoods. Maca, chlorella, and spirulina have powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and medicinal effects, as well as being an excellent source of protein. In particular, maca is an “adaptogen”, which is a term that describes certain plants that help the body adapt and recover from stressors such as rigorous physical activity or illness. It’s consumed in powdered form, either in a smoothie or a tea.
Whether you’re a pro, or an amateur athlete that works as hard as one, there is never any reason to sacrifice your overall health for your athletic performance. The old school way of loading up on meat, fast food, and sugar not only decreases your endurance, delays your recovery, and makes you prone to injury, but it also comes at a high price: heart disease, cancers, and diabetes. For more information on plant-based diets for athletes, FoodTherapyMD recommends these sites: